Last house standing

Arthur Daniel is an institution, a stalwart Detroiter, the last man standing. Rather, his house is the last one standing on the 1900 block of East Canfield on the city’s East Side.

Daniel has lived in his spacious duplex on East Canfield for an astonishing 63 years. He’s raised three children there, and he still lives with his wife of 38 years.

When he first moved there, in August 1941 (at the tender age of 4), his thriving block was filled with almost 20 houses, a church, a school, and several businesses, including a candy store and a meat market. Now, only Daniel’s house, the church, and the abandoned school remain.

Daniel was instrumental in getting the city to tear down an ASS-featured wreck at 1983 E. Canfield, which sat directly next to his well-kept home.

“It took a year and a half to get it torn down,” he says of the place. “They promised me they’d get it down last year, and they tore it down on Dec. 31.”

He tipped us off to another ASS house just down the street at the intersection of St. Aubin and Forest; we arrived just in time to see the bulldozers hauling away the remnants of what Daniel says was a funeral home in the ’30s. He says it was demolished in early April.

Daniel has little hope for the abandoned school that sits across from him.

“I’ve seen group after group after group come over and look at it, and see what they can do with it, but nothing ever happens,” Daniel says.

Daniel was kind enough to invite the ASS members into his home for a cool drink, and captivated us with tales of his thriving neighborhood in its prime. He even remembers when the church across the street handed out food staples during World War II.

Daniel says the first demolition on the block occurred in the mid-1970s, with two abandoned dwellings, and the wrecking ball continued to swing steadily into the 1980s.

“When the jobs started to move out, so did the people,” he recalls, “and then narcotics began to raise its ugly head. Up until the mid-’70s I could walk around at night and nothing ever happened … but then the street drugs began to take its toll on the youngsters, and you began to see the change spiral downwards.”

Daniel says drug dealers began to move into the apartment complexes on his block, and if the owners evicted them, they’d retaliate with firebombs.

Despite the rough times he’s seen, Daniel is content to stay right where he is.

“I’ve considered [moving], but I was always comfortable here,” he says. “It’s just home, I guess.”

Sarah Klein is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail [email protected]